Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Yoshitsune's ship attacked by ghosts of the Taira warriors at Daimotsu Bay -

Bookmark and Share
Dates: circa 1851,created
Dimensions: 28.5 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print; oban triptych

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Enshūya Hikobei (Marks 055 - seal 21-016)
Censors' seals: Fuku and Muramatsu

Related links: British Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; San Diego Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Google map - Osaka Bay - Daimotsu is right off of Amagasaki; Lyon Collection - Kuniyoshi triptych with Kamei Rokurō fighting a bear;Nelson Art Galley - right hand panel only; Nelson Art Galley - left hand panel only;

Physical description:

Daimotsu Bay is in the northeast part of Osaka Bay right off the area of Amagasaki. To see this location click on the Google map link above.

During the twelfth century, the Minamoto and Taira clans waged decades of battles that are the themes of countless stories and pictures. In the decisive sea battle at Dannoura in 1185, the brilliant and charismatic commander Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159–1189) routs the Taira. Kuniyoshi’s triptych draws from the kabuki play Benkei on the Boat, in which the returning victors are besieged in high seas by the ghosts of the defeated Taira, shown here as ghoulish silhouettes in the sky. Knowing that it is fruitless to fight spirits, Yoshitsune’s lieutenant, the warrior-monk Benkei, quells them by praying, and they melt into the sea.

"Kuniyoshi designed four triptychs on this subject each for a different publisher... In formal terms this is the most mature: the ship, great wave and their collision are all powerfully three-dimensional, with broadly swiped Prussian blue and mica lines in the waves. In contrast the forms of the ghosts appear wraithlike, made all the more uncanny by sombre colours and subtle wiping. This [the example in the British Museum] is an early printing: most of the ghosts' eyes were filled in progressively in later versions, and finally their horns were cut off... The reason for these changes is unknown." Quoted from: Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection by Timothy Clark, pp.90-91.

There is also a copy of this triptych in the Ukiyo-e Ōta Memorial Museum of Art.


The first figure, tangled up in the sail in the center panel, is Kamei Rokurō (亀井六郎), the hero of another Kuniyoshi triptych in the Lyon Collection. (See #228.)


Also illustrated in color in

1. Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings - 1680-1860 edited by Julia Meech and Jane Oliver, p. 216, 2008.

2. The Raymond A. Bidwell Collection of Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798-1861, Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts.

3. Ukiyo-e dai musha-e ten - 浮世絵大武者絵展 - (The Samurai World in Ukiyo-e), edited by Yuriko Iwakiri, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2003, #194, p. 70.

4. In two variant printings in 歌川国芳展: 生誕200年記念 Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Exhibition to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of his birth, 1996, #s70 and 71, p. 73.

5. Spanning the top of two pages in Kuniyoshi by Jūzō Suzuki (鈴木重三), Heibonsha Limited, Publishers, 1992, no. 71.

6. In color in Chimi moryō no sekai : Ukiyoe : Edo no gekiga--reikai, makai no shujinkō-tachi (浮世絵魑魅魍魎の世界: 江戶の劇画 : 霊界魔界の主人公たち) by 中右瑛 (Nakau Ei), Ribun Shuppan, Tokyo, 1987, pp. 30-31. [The text is entirely in Japanese.]

7. In black and white in Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Catalogue of the Mary A. Ainsworth Collection by Roger Keyes, 1984, p. 99.[This records a copy of this triptych in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College.]

8. In color over two pages in color in 浮世絵八華 (Ukiyo-e hakka), vol. 7 (Kuniyoshi), Heibonsha, 1985, #24.

9. In a small black and white reproduction in 浮世絵八華 (Ukiyo-e hakka), vol. 8 (Hiroshige), Heibonsha, 1984, p. 70.